Apple's latest tablet will be coming to the corporate environment, spurring the laggards to develop BYOD policies. New, free management software from Apple should ease its entry somewhat.
There are plenty of things for corporations to like in Apple's announcement of its new iPad (which we will all persist in calling the iPad 3, no matter what Apple says). At least three of the iPad's new features make it more attractive to corporate purchasers than its predecessor devices: its high-res screen, improved camera, and LTE connectivity.
The "retina" display, at 2048 by 1536 or over 3.1 million pixels, is sure to be attractive for one of the first corporate applications at which the iPad excelled -- sales and marketing presentations and brochures. The new display, backed by a quad-core graphics chip, will shine in this application.
The 5-megapixel front-facing camera on the iPad 3, which brings it up to par with the iPhone 4GS's excellent camera, will find use wherever workers in the field need to document a product, an environment, an in-store display, or whatever. (Video conferencing won't benefit, because the rear-facing camera is the same low-res affair as before.)
The new iPad's faster connectivity will be a boon to workers in remote offices, travelers, field service personnel, and anyone who wanders far from the urban grid and away from Wi-Fi connectivity. The company is going to have to keep a close eye on bandwidth usage, however -- the speedy LTE connection is capable of using up a month's bandwidth allocation in mere minutes, possibly triggering hefty overage charges.
Probably far more iPad3s will make their way inside corporate walls because employees bring in their own devices. For corporations that already deploy company-owned iPad 2s, the extra features of the iPad 3 (at the same price points) might not be complling enough to trigger an upgrade cycle. But as consumers, we are going to want the shiny new device, and we are going to buy lots of them and bring them to work.
Surveys indicate that employee-owned tablets and smartphones have now infiltrated the large majority of corporations, but that most companies have not yet established firm policies to deal systematically with the BYOD phenomenon. The iPad 3 might just spur the laggards into action. Many companies are still trying to decide what mobile device management (MDM) software to deploy; the renewed influx of employee devices could add urgency to this process.
Enter the Configurator
Without fanfare, Apple announced a basic MDM program called the Configurator (here is a first look from TechRecess). It allows iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touch devices to be configured and managed in bulk at modest scale (30 devices at a time), without resorting to the multiple iTunes accounts that have been necessary in the past.
Apple's Configurator can't cover all of the device needs of most corporations -- it handles only Apple devices, and it operates at too small a scale. But it can serve as a first step to get Apple devices into a consistent configuration before handing them over to a third-party MDM system that manages Android and other devices as well, integrates with Active Directory, and operates at corporate scale.